Group offers new health care system education

A group aimed at helping Louisiana residents better understand and navigate the new federal health care system was announced Wednesday.

“This is going to be an educational coalition. This isn’t going to be about policy,” said Dr. David Carmouche, medical officer of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, the Baton Rouge-based health insurance company that put together the group called Louisiana Healthcare Education Coalition.

The coalition has 33 partners from business, government and church communities.

Carmouche said the sweeping Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, has thousands of pages of regulations and procedures that are being added every day. The coalition will try to distill the information into easily understandable language to help everyday people know how to take action, he said.

For instance, the health insurance marketplace is opening for enrollment in October, with coverage to begin in 2014. Louisiana residents will have to use the federal exchange, which will allow consumers to compare and price insurance policies.

Information is available at www.lhec.net.

Brian Feldman, an Atlanta-based public relations manager for the effort, said he did not know how much the coalition would cost.

Carmouche said statistics compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation, of Menlo Park, Calif., whose reports on health care are widely praised, show that 57 percent of Americans feel they don’t have adequate information about their healthcare systems and options. About two-thirds of the people without any health insurance are confused as well, he said.

Dereck J. Rovaris Sr., the associate vice chancellor for Academic and Multicultural Affairs at the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, said he knows from recent personal experience how daunting it is to navigate health care systems, even for someone such as himself who works with the public hospitals.

Rovaris said his family intervened a couple of weeks ago when a cousin was showing symptoms but not seeking treatment.

The cousin, a college graduate, had lost his insurance when he was laid off, Rovaris said.

It took a dozen or so hours, even with Rovaris’ help, to read the information, find the facts pertinent to his situation and navigate all the various systems and rules required to receive health care.

“It has become very crucial to educate people,” Rovaris said. “This is personal to me.”